Givng God the Left Over's

Mark 12:38-44 38 As he taught, he said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! 40 They devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation." 41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on."

When I was a kid sitting in church this was one of my favorite Bible stories to hear.

When I was a kid I didn’t hear the sermon laced with guilt enticing people to bump up their pledge or pry a few more bucks from the checking account and put it in the offering plate.

Because when I was a kid I heard the children’s sermon.

Most children’s sermons boiled this story down to making the kids feel good about the few coins they put in the offering. And I don’t know about you but those coins weren’t mine to being with, I usually dug them up from the bottom of my mom’s purse. The same place ratty tissues and gum that tasted like perfume came from.

I’ll tell you that the children’s sermons were successful in my life. I always felt good hearing the story and dropping in my (mom’s) quarters on a Sunday morning. I felt like I had something to offer to God and God found value in my giving.

And this is a great place for us to start as children in the church, believing that God celebrates our giving even if we don’t feel like we have a lot to offer… we won’t get into how many churches perpetuate the notion that children don’t have anything to offer the church…

Anyway the challenge is that as we become adults we don’t go beyond this child like understanding of giving which leads to a “good enough” attitude in our giving. That God loves us no matter how much we give, even if what we give is the left over’s from the bottom of our purse or what’s left over from that month of spending.

So whatever I give to the church will be “good enough” for God. Another direction we go with understanding of giving and the church is the guilt. We give because the church, a sermon, however the church is trying to raise money somehow makes us feel guilty about our own abundance and when we do give out of abundance, we are never giving enough.

Am I on to something here? Sounding pretty familiar?

Why is our giving motivated by either guilt or a sense that we don’t really need to think about the leftover’s we give because in God’s eyes it will be “good enough?”

Does this story we read this morning story teach us something more?

It would be an awfully short sermon this morning if it didn’t!

Let’s start with how we understand the notion of what it means to give. There first is the assumption that we have to own before we can give, right? We can’t give away what isn’t ours to begin with. That makes logical sense to our brains… I’m afraid the logic can’t be applied in the same way when it come to God and giving.

From the story of creation to John’s vision in revelation there is a clear understanding that everything is a gift from God. We don’t own ourselves, other people, money, material goods… God does. We are more like managers, or the word that sends shivers down many of church goer’s spines: we are “stewards.” And what we do with the blessings of money, time, talents and other gifts is call “stewardship.” Being a manager or a steward is not the same thing as being an owner. Managers are people who handle the resources on behalf of the owner then act in the interest of the owner.

Money is a tangible way to help us understand all of this. We know how much money there is when we cash our paycheck or social security or for many these days the unemployment check. When we think about how to spend this money we think about how much we are supposed to give to the church. Right? How much do we hand over?

As God’s steward we are way off the mark when we ask that question.

It would be like opening an account with a broker and the person asking, “So how much of this account do you want me to manage? Like whatever I don’t use? That would be OK, right?” No that wouldn’t be OK you trust the broker with you investments and the expectation is that they would manage all of it in with your best interests in mind.

So it is with God.

If we were to imagine ourselves as one of the disciples that Jesus pulled aside in the temple would we even dare to ask him the question: “So Jesus… does this mean you want us to love God all that we are? Our heart, our mind, our soul and not just is what is leftover at the end of the month?”

When we give our “left over’s” to God we do so with the impression we are the owners and we can chose what to give or how much, or not to give at all.

The fact is we aren’t the owners. We are the stewards and it’s not about what we give to God but how do we look at ourselves in relationship to what we give.

How do we look at ourselves? We know how the scribes looked at themselves. They were all about making sure they looked good when they looked at themselves too.

They wanted to look good in their fancy robes.

They want to sound good with their long prayers.

They wanted others to make sure others thought they were good too.

The religious authorities that Jesus is calling to account in this story put themselves at the center of… well everything.

They think that they are God.

They think everything belongs to them.

And if you don’t think it belongs to them, they will make sure to take it away from you. Like the houses of the widow, the poor, the destitute. “Those people” don’t deserve it. They haven’t worked for what they have. They haven’t “pulled themselves up by their boot straps.”

It’s not about what God wants for God’s creation, it’s about how a group of people determine who is worthy and whatever is left over can go to God.

Jesus makes a point to his disciples in this story to show them, and us, that this is about more than just money.

“See those coins.”

They aren’t just coins. Hardly worth the amount they represent, less than a penny really.

Those coins are a faith filled action that recognizes all of who we are and all we hope to become are given to God in its entirety, not just what we have left over.

Jesus shows us how we are the coins.

We give to God all of who we are, all we hope to become because we don’t belong to ourselves to begin with.

We are God’s.

This morning we will hear the words of God’s saving grace that claims us in these waters.

The waters of baptism.

These are the waters where God proclaims a grace given for us.

These are the waters where God claims us as God’s own.

These are the waters where God doesn’t sprinkle on the “left over’s” but gives us God’s whole self in Jesus Christ.

These are also the waters where God calls us forth to respond in faith. Not to just give what we have left over, to give back to God all of what is God’s to begin with.

From these waters we emerge with an intention to live as God’s people.

And we struggle with this each and every day. Because we get so caught up, like the religious authorities of Jesus day with how we look, and act, what other people think of us and that by making showy acts of charity… and we somehow fulfill our Christian commitment.

Jesus is inviting us to see how in this story our giving isn’t so much an act, an amount, a one time or once a week activity. Giving to God the “left over’s” isn’t an option as it denies who we are, whose we are ,and how we are claimed to life as people of faith. God’s people.

In these waters Jesus says to us we aren’t the religious authorities.

We aren’t the widow.

We are the coins.

Our life is a faith filled offering found in all the ways that we live who God created us to be.


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